The Northeast Vikings had all the momentum in the world going for them during their Homecoming showdown Friday night with the Eureka Tornadoes at Samuel J. Nicoletti Field.
Eureka moved the ball on its opening drive — highlighted by a 29-yard first down completion from quarterback Colton Pitko to 6-foot-4 receiver Wes Moots, who seemingly outjumped half the Northeast team for the catch — before Northeast linebacker Antonio Slingluff made a big play with a forced fumble and fumble recovery at the Northeast 10.
The Vikings methodically drove the ball 90 yards and delivered its own big pass play, a 37-yard completion from J.T. Richardson to Austin Wonderly on a third down play deep in Northeast territory. Richardson had a pair of 9-yard runs and Slingluff had a pair of first down runs before he powered in for a 2-yard score at the 4-minute, 37-second mark of the first quarter.
However, Northeast had a pair of interceptions and a safety on its next three possessions and Eureka unreeled 38 unanswered during a 38-12 win.
“It did (get away from us),” Northeast head coach Phil Hobbs said. “We got a stop and we were able to go down the field and get a score. We did . . . we had some momentum. I don't know if our mindset was this is a repeat of last year (Northeast won 35-6 in Eureka).
“I think we had a letdown. I think our kids felt like at that point that maybe it wasn't going to be as difficult as it would be and we preached them to all week they're 2-0 (now 3-0) and doing some things right over there. It's a good football team and it's a much different football team as far as their physical level and effort from last year.”
Over a six-possession stretch from the second to the fourth quarters, Eureka scored five touchdowns — a Pitko 3-yard run, a Dalton Lyon 36-yard pass from Pitko, a Logan Hayes 2-yard run, a Moots 8-yard pass from Pitko and a Pitko 1-yard run. The Tornadoes made three 2-point conversions.
Eureka scored its first points on a safety, as a bad snap went over the head of the Northeast punter and he was tackled in the end zone.
Northeast moved the ball Friday night but just did not make enough big plays.
The Vikings narrowly missed a critical touchdown on the last play of the first half, as Eureka stuffed Richardson inside the 1-yard line as time expired.
Eureka went into halftime with a 18-6 advantage rather than 18-12, 18-13 or 18-14.
Northeast forced a turnover-on-downs on Eureka's first possession after halftime but the Vikings could not get any points after taking over in Eureka territory. The Tornadoes were not stopped the rest of the contest.
Page 2 of 2 - “We moved the ball pretty well against them the whole game,” Hobbs said. “We had opportunities and we just couldn't capitalize on them. Right before halftime there, we get stopped at the 1-foot line . . . we could have made it a one-possession ballgame at that point. We didn't make those breaks happen tonight and that's one thing we told our kids after the ballgame, though, that good teams are going to make their breaks and those opportunities. We had in previous games and just were unable to tonight.”
Richardson had 101 yards rushing on 15 carries at halftime but Eureka kept the fleet Northeast quarterback in check for the majority of the second half, until Richardson broke a 50-yard TD run in the final minute.
Richardson finished with 151 yards on 22 carries and passed for another 150 yards, although he was hurt by two interceptions. Last season, Richardson gashed Eureka for over 300 yards and five TDs.
Pitko led the Eureka offense with over 200 yards passing and two scores, complemented by 91 yards and two scores on 13 carries. Logan Hayes added 100 yards and one TD on 13 carries, more effective as the Northeast defense began to tire in the second half. Lyon and Moots each caught four passes.
Northeast (1-2) hosts undefeated Galena next week.